Parking fees 'likely to remain'

Patients and their friends and relatives look set to continue to have to pay fees in hospital car parks, after the Government seemingly ruled that banning charges was too expensive.

Andy Burnham, who was the last health secretary under the previous Labour government, proposed ending the charges within three years and he launched a consultation into the matter.

The decision is likely to be left in the hands of individual NHS trusts, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government has indicated.

Trusts cash in more than £100 million a year from car parking charges, leading to criticism from consumer groups that health chiefs in England are ripping off patients. Everywhere else in the UK there is free car parking at hospitals.

Patients also risks a boost to theircar insurance premium by being forced to park in areas that put their cars at risk of theft.

An announcement is expected to be made soon but health minister Simon Burns said: "For a long time we have been unconvinced that Labour's car parking idea was properly funded and practical.

"We will publish a response to the NHS car parking consultation soon and all decisions will be subject to the spending review.

"It is clear that where parking charges are making it difficult for staff to do their jobs properly, where they are damaging patient access to services, or preventing friends and family from visiting then hospital trusts have a responsibility to respond to those factors".

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